Day 2 from B1G Media Days: Kirk Ferentz's wishful thinking, scratching my head at Urban Meyer and more
CHICAGO — We had actual serious news at B1G Media Days on Tuesday.
We had Urban Meyer address the firing of Ohio State receivers coach Zach Smith and Mark Dantonio’s long-winded answer about the status of Jon Reschke following the insensitive comment he directed at a teammate in 2017 that resulted in his dismissal.
Those were the significant, hard news stories of the day. And yes, they were worth me weighing in on.
But don’t worry. It wasn’t all seriousness on Tuesday.
These were the nuggets that I found interesting from Day 2 in Chicago:
Kirk Ferentz’s wishful thinking
The Iowa coach said something on Tuesday that I thought was, um, ambitious. No, he didn’t get up to the podium and say that he expects the Hawkeyes to win a national title. He did get up to the podium and talk about Noah Fant hopefully being one of Iowa’s player representatives in Chicago next year.
“But I was hoping Josh (Jackson) and James (Daniels) would be here too,” Ferentz said. “We’ll see how that all plans out.”
Yeah, about that.
In the spirit of preseason prediction season, I’ll offer up another one. The only way Fant is in Chicago at this time next year is if he’s wearing a Chicago Bears jersey (did I just make some Chi Hawks salivate?). In the way-too-early mock drafts, Fant is already a staple as the top tight end prospect.
Keep in mind that while it’s unlikely Fant sustains the 11 touchdowns he scored last year — that was an Iowa tight end record — he’s still as freakish of an athlete as there is at the position. His 42-inch vertical would’ve ranked higher than any tight end at the NFL scouting combine in the last seven years.
The 243-pound tight end is explosive and dynamic in ways that people aren’t use to seeing at Iowa. He squashes the national narrative about the program lacking freakish athletes, and barring injury, another year in Chris Doyle’s strength program isn’t going to change that.
So will Fant, a likely preseason All-American, come back for his senior season and represent Iowa at B1G Media Days next year?
Sorry, Kirk. Savor every Fant moment you have left in 2018 (via Big Ten Network).
A Jon Reschke update that was far from canned
Mark Dantonio was asked a question about the status of Reschke, who left the team in February 2017 after directing a racially insensitive comment at a teammate. Dantonio could’ve easily just said “he’s currently with the team” and moved on. To be honest, that’s probably the way Jim Harbaugh would’ve handled it (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Instead, Dantonio’s answer lasted several minutes and it said a lot. Given the allegations surrounding Dantonio’s negligence of sexual assault cases involving his program, it was significant to hear him actually answer a question about a sensitive subject matter.
Here was Dantonio’s response in its entirety:
“Publicly apologized for insensitive remark that he made. Graduated from Michigan State. Was intent — blew out his knee was intent on going to another school. Had to apply for a sixth year. At that point in time, we started asking ourselves as a program, not me, but as players as well, did we want him back in our program or did we not. I’ve always tried to do what’s right, and I’ve always tried to look at everything that was — always tried to look at everything in its completeness, what best affects that young man and his future, whether it was Demetrius Cooper last year or whether it was situations at other times. So I put it to our football team and allowed them to take part, become part of the process, and that’s what it’s been, it’s been a process, and it’s an ongoing process. Whether it comes to fruition or not remains to be seen.
But it’s been a step-by-step process. And I talked to our football team and our players and said: Hey, if you guys want him back, then you have to bring him back. It has to be a decision made by our African-American players, led by them. It has to be — they have to support that. But I think college football, and teams in general — when I talk about “teams,” talking about soccer teams, football teams, whatever — they have an opportunity to step forward collectively as a group and make statements relative to society, I think, year by year.
Sometimes they’re impactful. Sometimes they’re not. But the one thing I want our football players to understand and to learn from is that — and to grow as people from is that they’re going to have to handle big, big issues at times, such as standing for the flag or not, things we’ve endured at Michigan State in this past year, they’re going to be a part of that, and they’re going to have to weigh in on things. And I’m going to have to listen to them and listen to them weigh in on it and make decisions, ultimately. I’ll ultimately have to make decisions. But I have individuals that I’m concerned about. I’m concerned about people’s families. I’m concerned about how they live their life. Jon Reschke makes the decision he wants to come back, he’s trying to look things in the eye and ask for forgiveness. Our football team has forgiven him, I think. If they haven’t, that’s something we’ll deal with on an ongoing basis.
It’s been a step-by-step process. Brought him back, let him be around a bit in summer camp and watch, not summer camp, but our conditioning areas, then we let him partake in that conditioning. We watched to see how he interacted with players that listened to our football team since January, our leadership group, our entire team. Every month I’ve revisited the situation and asked them how do they feel; do they still feel the same; they’ll need to speak up and talk about this issue. And I’m allowing, hopefully allowing, healing to take place among our players and this situation.
So I’ll always do the best I can in that endeavor, and we’ll take a step-by-step approach. But these things occurred over a year and a half ago. And he’s not on scholarship, nor will he be on scholarship. And I think that’s a big thing. He paid an ultimate price by being out of football for a year. And he’s lost his scholarship. He’s suffered a knee injury. We’ll see how he comes out of it. And this will be a story to watch maybe as we move forward. But I think it’s a learning opportunity for our football team and it’s an opportunity for growth as people and as a society. So that’s what we’re going to do, and we’re going to see what happens.”
So to recap:
- African-American players will decide if Reschke comes back for 2018
- Reschke IS on the roster
- Reschke is NOT on scholarship, nor will he be
- He has already interacted with the team in spring camp
We knew that Reschke’s status was still to be determined by players, but it was interesting to hear Dantonio say that the African-American players will decide if they want the veteran MSU linebacker to return. That’s probably in MSU’s best interest given the nature of Reschke’s departure.
The reality is that if Reschke was just another guy, this wouldn’t really be much of a conversation. Nobody would really care if he was on the roster or not.
But this was someone who was expected to be an anchor in the middle of the MSU defense in 2017. If he does return from his knee injury, adding a 24-year old with his type of experience will be significant for a preseason top-15 team.
Dantonio’s answer was long-winded, but it makes a lot of sense that he was transparent as possible about it.
Lovie Smith’s odd observation
So here’s something you don’t see everyday. I’m not talking about Lovie’s beard, which was on point (and trending).
Lovie Smith's beard is spectacular. pic.twitter.com/0tqROaLnyj
— Eleven Warriors (@11W) July 24, 2018
What I couldn’t help but notice was Smith say that Illinois was “excited” about its schedule. Smith mentioned how the Illini will leave the state of Illinois just once until late October (the one trip is to Rutgers). That’s a nice way of saying, “we are extremely fortunate that the scheduling gods blessed our young team with a favorable start.”
To take it one step further, Illinois leaves the state four times all year, and two of those trips are to Maryland and Rutgers. The Illini’s “Power 5 non-conference game” is against USF at Soldier Field, too. Combine that with a B1G West schedule, add it all up and what do you get? A gift of a schedule.
I do consider that an odd observation because usually the cellar-dwellers talk about how brutal of a schedule they have. Instead, Smith is “excited” about how Illinois’ schedule worked out.
What happens if Smith can’t win five games with a slate this easy? Will we still constantly hear about Illinois’ youth? Or will this be him finally accepting that winning at Illinois is an even steeper uphill battle than he realized?
I’d bet on the former.
Why Urban Meyer contradicted himself with Zach Smith
The elephant in the room was how Meyer was going to address the firing of his receivers coach following the reports about multiple domestic violence incidents. He spent a decent amount of time addressing why that was a tough decision.
What I found interesting was Meyer’s reasoning for firing Smith, or lack thereof. The most recent incident that opened the file up was Smith being charged with criminal trespassing over the weekend. Reports then surfaced that Smith was arrested in 2009 for aggravated assault of his then-pregnant wife. That, of course, was while he was on Meyer’s staff at Florida.
On Monday night, college football insider Brett McMurphy reported that Smith had another domestic charge from 2015. Fifty minutes later, Smith was fired.
That’s the news. What doesn’t make sense was Meyer’s response to his reasoning for deciding to fire Smith. Meyer said on Tuesday that the 2009 incident “was not as reported” and that he got a text on Monday night informing him about the reported 2015 incident and there was “nothing.”
But was this really “nothing?”
Contrary to Urban Meyer’s comment there was “nothing” to my 2015 report, Powell (Ohio) Police Department confirms Zach Smith was investigated for Oct. 26, 2015 on felony counts of domestic violence & felonious assault & on Nov. 9, 2015 menacing by stalking. No charges were filed
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) July 24, 2018
Um, so why then did Meyer fire Smith? Meyer said this decision wasn’t based entirely on public perception, and that it contributed “a little bit.” Well, Meyer certainly didn’t fire his longest-tenured staff member because of poor performance.
If the 2009 and 2015 issues really were “not as reported,” Meyer apparently believes that the criminal trespassing charge — which was dropping his kids off at his divorced wife’s house — was enough to fire Smith? That doesn’t really add up because then he would’ve been fired over the weekend if it was a final straw situation.
If he really did believe Smith was being wrongfully accused and that the public attention was simply a headache he didn’t want to deal with, he could’ve said, “yeah, even though this is an ongoing investigation, public perception had a lot to do with why he was fired.” But he didn’t.
I’m wondering why Meyer, who has a zero-tolerance policy against domestic violence, didn’t just come out and say “we can’t have anyone on our staff who’s associated with anything involving domestic violence. Period.” Instead, Meyer took a stance to try and cover his own reputation for keeping Smith on staff despite those alleged incidents.
In the end, though, I don’t think Meyer helped his reputation on Tuesday.
Paul Chryst jokes!
OK, let’s lighten things up a bit.
Contrary to his quiet attitude toward the media, Chryst is apparently quite the jokester. We’ve all heard rumblings of that, so on Tuesday, I asked Wisconsin players about his sense of humor.
Wisconsin safety D’Cota Dixon said that when they were at the B1G Luncheon on Tuesday, Chryst was in trouble because he didn’t check in with his wife. He was texting with her to try and smooth things over, but apparently that wasn’t going so well.
“He said, ‘Boys, I might be riding home with you tonight,'” Dixon said.
That was the best specific example that Wisconsin players had. Well, besides this:
Anyone good at reading lips? At the end of the game, Chryst looks like he said "Turnover chain my f—ing ass" pic.twitter.com/UWjcjRMsHO
— CFB Gif'er (@CFBgifer) December 31, 2017
It’s more about the little comments here and there that Chryst will drop in.
“He makes me laugh every day simply because he’s got all this spotlight on him. He’s the head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers, but he acts like Joe Schmo,” Wisconsin offensive lineman Michael Deiter said. “That’s kinda perfect. To have the success that he’s had in life, cameras in his face all the time and to act just ask as humble as can be, I think is hilarious.
“What’s funny is at stuff like (B1G Media Days), he’ll crack the subtlest little jokes and it’s super funny. It’s funny to know that your coach is a regular old guy.”
Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Edwards said Chryst has been making players laugh all week, and non-game situations are where he’s at his best. Edwards also said that Chryst’s interactions with Wisconsin kicker Rafael Gaglianone are pretty entertaining. Chryst even let Gaglianone, who hails from Brazil, watch his country in World Cup during summer lifts in the weight room.
But no, Chryst doesn’t try to speak any Portuguese to Gaglianone.
“I think he knows his lane,” Edwards said.
As long as that lane involves more Turnover Chain comments caught on camera, I think we’d all love to go down that road with Chryst.